Strategic irrigation and fertilizer use key to boosting apple’s yield — research

Apple Orchard ready for harvest. Mornig shot after the rain

A comprehensive global meta-analysis, incorporating 1834 observations from 72 studies across 18 countries, has illuminated the significant benefits of optimizing irrigation and nitrogen fertilizer management in apple production. This research highlights how strategic resource management can markedly improve apple yield, quality, and efficiency in both water and nitrogen use.

The study, published in Scientia Horticulturae, found that by adjusting water and nitrogen inputs to optimal levels, apple yields could increase by 5.2–25.5%, with corresponding enhancements in water productivity and nitrogen use efficiency. Notably, the potential for water savings in apple cultivation is estimated at 20.4%, while nitrogen savings could reach as much as 37%. These adjustments not only boost the quality and yield of apples but also significantly reduce the environmental footprint of production.

The meta-analysis detailed that optimal water management could elevate apple yield by 19.4%, enhance water productivity by 36.1%, and improve various quality metrics such as organic acids, total soluble solids, vitamin C content, and fruit firmness by 12.5%, 8.4%, 17.5%, and 9.8%, respectively. Similarly, optimal nitrogen input could increase apple yield by 8.9%, raise nitrogen use efficiency by 48.1%, and improve the same quality metrics by 10.7%, 6.1%, 13.3%, and 5.2%, respectively.

These findings underscore the importance of tailored irrigation and fertilization strategies to not only meet but exceed current production and sustainability standards in global apple cultivation. This research provides crucial guidance for apple producers worldwide, aiming to optimize resource use while maintaining high standards of fruit quality and environmental stewardship.

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